Spartans wounded by defeat in Trophy

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TIME heals all wounds, so it is said. But Blyth Spartans FC manager Mick Tait reckons it will take some days for his players to overcome the disappointment and mental wounds of losing their FA Trophy quarter-final against Gateshead at Croft Park on Saturday.

And if only time had been a quicker healer the shape of the Blyth team, and possibly how the game shaped up, may have been changed by the inclusion of influential midfielder Michael Tait who missed the tie with a hamstring injury.

The Blyth boss said: “The players are devastated, but we’ll get over it.

“With Michael missing I had to restructure the side, which meant we couldn’t play in the way we like to.

“Nevertheless we didn’t do ourselves justice in the first half. Some players didn’t do their jobs and we allowed Gateshead’s Phil Turnbull too much time on the ball, which gifted them a lot of possession.”

An own goal by the usually decisive Chris Swailes after 14 minutes set the scene for an uphill struggle for the Spartans.

“Dan Lowson, our goalkeeper, shouted as he came to collect the cross,” said Tait.

“But Swazz [Swailes] was committed to go for it, was caught in two minds and the ball eased past Lowson in to the net.”

Within four minutes Blyth were two goals down.

“We were awful,” said Tait.

“There were four green and white shirts in the six-yard box and yet the ball got to the single Gateshead player to score.

“That shouldn’t happen. We had two players who, because of a misunderstanding, left the man for each other.

“And I’d said during the lead up to the game that we mustn’t give away cheap goals.”

Cheap? They were worthy of a supermarket-style ‘Whoops!’ sticker.

In terms of play, Tait wasn’t too concerned with the first 45 minutes.

“Yes, they had a lot of possession, but it was deep possession, not around our box, and Dan in our goal wasn’t tested.

“In the second half we wanted to stay disciplined with a view to pushing on later. We couldn’t afford to concede a third goal.”

In fact Blyth came close four times shortly after the restart, with Paul Brayson twice coming close and Nicky Deverdics shooting over, plus a shot by Stephen Turnbull was blocked.

Tait withdrew John Alexander with a quarter of an hour remaining, Liam O’Mahoney coming on to play wide left and Robbie Dale fronting the attack.

The switch sparked a degree of Blyth pressure and they came close to getting back into the match but Brayson’s effort hit the bar and Dale’s overhead kick was collected by Deasy in the visitors’ goal.

Tait said: “We did our best in the end but we didn’t give ourselves a chance because of the goals we gave away.”

Tait was still, in his words, ‘kicking myself’ the day after the game,, ruminating on his choice of starting line-up.

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“My first instinct was to go with the team I finished with. Maybe I should have, I don’t know.

“There were really only two options to choose from in terms of the team I could put out, but I hold up my hands – I’m the manager and it was my call.

“One positive was that we finished the match the fitter and fresher of the teams, and this despite Gateshead being full-time.”

Another plus was the magnificent performance of Blyth midfielder Neal Hooks, who regularly drilled 30 and 40 yard balls across the pitch, got forward, tracked back and never gave up.

He also has added some steel to his game this season.

Tait was keen to send his apologies to the crowd.

“I want to say sorry because our players and myself didn’t really acknowledge the fans after the final whistle.

“It wasn’t a lack of respect, it was just that we were devastated, thinking we’d let everyone down.

“The Blyth people turned up in their numbers for the game and were great and we do appreciate that.”

With a home game against Solihull this Saturday, Tait expects the psychological wounds to have healed.

“We’ll bounce back,” he suggested.

However, midfielder Michael Tait does not appear to have time on his side and looks likely to continue to be sidelined.